Brian Winters: “Saint Merle of the Desert”

Saint Merle of the Desert

—–Lee was already into his second cup of decaf when he saw Caryl pull his pick-up into the Black Bear Diner parking lot. He folded up the Visalia Times and watched Caryl lock the truck door after getting his cowboy hat. There was that mutual nod of acknowledgment as Caryl walked in behind a family whose bleary-eyed children did not look to be in a traveling mood.
—–“I’m guessing you read the same thing I did this morning,” Caryl said as he seated himself.
—–“That I did.”
—–“So, they’re saying they have nothing in regard to leads.”
—–“Who is they?”
—–“The cops. In New Mexico. I thought you said you read it.”
—–“Right, right. I did. Okay.”
—–“They have nothing to work with. When I was on the phone with them the other day, they were getting ready to talk to investigators and behavioral specialist people.”
—–Lee started fidgeting with the coffee creamers. “That sounds like it,” he said nodding. “To analyze him. To come up with speculations then draw conclusions. That figures.”
—–Both men paused as a waitress brought coffee. Outside, they could see the pale morning light shine on the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
—–“So, for right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to why Merle might have done this and where he disappeared to.”
—–“Aw, that’s just nonsense. Why else would someone park a U-Haul on the side of the 81 highway, pull out all the things that tied him to life—his coffee machine, his two-thousand-dollar big screen, the diplomas, his custom suits, his iPhone and iPad, the laptop, all that stuff—and just dump them onto the highway, then strip down to nothing, toss whatever it was he had on into some improvised bonfire, then walk bare-assed out into the open desert, looking for a hole to live in like some kind of hermit?”
—–“Yeah, well, we know the answer to that one, don’t we?”
—–That was Caryl, unwrapping the silverware from his napkin.
—– “What I want to know is how this didn’t happen sooner.”
—–That was Lee, questioning the complexity of a man’s patience with the world.


Brian Winters generally writes about the restless or the unshaven. His story “Mjorgonlar, Class of ’88” was recently featured in the Manzano Mountain Review.  Having lived in Kansas, Idaho, and Kentucky, he currently hangs out in Twain Harte, CA, and can be found eating street tacos on most weekends.

Sugar Tobey: “The Scar”

The Scar

A small thin slit in a sea of perfect young skin
located just south and west of her belly button
I pause for a moment to kiss

please don’t she tells me
I hate it so much
not surprised I say I love it

someone made this lifesaving cut
now it’s a beautiful reminder
imperfect impermanent and incomplete


Sugar Tobey was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, received a degree from the School of Visual Art in Manhattan, and now lives in NYC above a pizza parlor.

Ron Riekki: “The Time That My Hometown Set Me on Fire and Ate My Loins”

The Time That My Hometown Set Me on Fire and Ate My Loins

That was on Tuesday.
It’s every Tuesday.
Every Tuesday is every Tuesday.

And it’s when my guts burn.
They call it Christmas.
The Tuesday Christmas of burning.

The mouse in my mouth.
The rat on my lip.
The clouds, bone-colored.

I sing in the shower.
I shower onstage.
I used to strip.

I’d take my skin off.
The audience could see all my clouds.
I have a PTSD counselor.

I also have a PTSD chef.
And a PTSD janitor.
That’s me.

I’m the PTSD janitor.
I have a Ph.D.
and found out those are useless.

You use them less.
You get used.
I have a disability.

I have the ability to diss.
I complain a lot.
They say that’s what PTSD causes.

In China, 8 is good.
In China, I saw photos of the Tiananmen Massacre.
They looked like the number 4.

I’m a zombie.
I’m a weird sense of zombie.
My girlfriend wants me to go to sleep.

I’m also Saami.
It’s an indigenous group you’ve never heard of.
I’m extinct.

I’m an extinct janitor.
I write poems,
which means I’m even more extinct.



Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Regional Fiction), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book awarded by the Library of Michigan), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press).

Juan Arabia: “A Hummingbird on the Bauhinia”

A Hummingbird on the Bauhinia

On the lowest branch of a bauhinia
rests the aquamarine black.
Enduring hummingbird… Purple,
like edge’s pleasure, thirsty
like harmful willow root:

Nectar, Liquor, Hashish: like the origin
of fire. In America flowers
feed legions… Tadpole algae
emerging, cricket shaking out its flags.

The sun is a hermit, like corn,
and the spot where silence’s bird
sings. Enduring before iron,
coal, pirate steamships,
on the lowest branch of a bauhinia:

Western slavery, rats.
Here the hunting sounds
sicken and die… the damp breeze
emerging in circles of rebellion.

On the lowest branch of a bauhinia
rests the aquamarine black.
Enduring hummingbird… Purple,
like edge’s pleasure, thirsty
like harmful willow root.

————————————————————Translated by Katherine M. Hedeen


Juan Arabia (Buenos Aires, 1983) is a poet, translator, and literary critic. In addition to publishing three books of poetry, he has written extensively on John Fante and the Beat Generation. He has translated Arthur Rimbaud, Ezra Pound, and a book-length anthology of Beat poets, among many others. He is the founder and director of the literary journal and press Buenos Aires Poetry

Katherine M. Hedeen is the NEH Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College. She specializes in Latin American poetry and has researched and translated numerous contemporary authors from the region. Her translations appear extensively in prestigious American and British literary journals. She is an associate editor of Earthwork’s Latin American Poetry in Translation Series for Salt Publishing.

Robert Wexelblatt: “Plagiarism”


I read in this biography of Jim Morrison that toward the end he was getting through two bottles of Jack Daniel’s a day. That’s amazing. I can just about get through one.

The last email I had from my publisher friend was about the reasons for his depression. They were all sound reasons, hard to argue with. In a p.s. he added that, toward the end, Jim Morrison was drinking two bottles of Southern Comfort a day. He said he was impressed, as it was all he could do to get to the bottom of one.

Today’s class will be about Jim Morrison, a notable song writer, hedonist, mystic, and lead singer of The Doors. Morrison died in Paris, just like Oscar Wilde, Richard Wright, Wallis Simpson, and, of course, numerous French people. Jim abused—or, as he would argue, used—drugs and alcohol. Jim was famous, even legendary, for his drinking. By the time he died at twenty-seven he was downing two bottles of Chivas a day, so they say. I think you’ll find that it’s hard just getting through one. That’s been my experience, anyway.

My old lady claims she’s as good a drinker as Jim Morrison because, like him, she can guzzle two bottles of Four Roses a day. I make that eight roses. She calls me a wimp because I can’t swallow more than two roses.

Nobody’s really sure what killed Jim Morrison, but alcohol probably had something to do with it. According to those in a position to know, in his last year he was polishing off two bottles of Jim Beam a day.

—–And that’s why I stop at one.


Robert Wexelblatt is a professor at Boston University. He has published five fiction collections; two of essays; a pair of short novels; essays, stories, poems in various journals, and a novel awarded the Indie Book Awards prize for fiction. A collection of Chinese and one of non-Chinese stories are forthcoming.

Darren C. Demaree: Two Poems

Emily as Her Shiny Parts Are Not a Signal for Help
I know there is resentment
for the name that has begun
these three thousand poems

& I really don’t care at all.
I was terrible with terrible
outcomes. I am good now,

sober, so the beautiful woman
I married decided not to
leave me. She is an epic,

but most of these poems
are about how she never went
anywhere without me.

It’s difficult to explain that
when you’re staring at her
the way everyone does.


Emily as I Sit on a Stone outside Our Front Door
I don’t wait for the moon.
I wait for Emily.
If I had wanted the moon

I would have gone
to the moon. I do have
that sort of devotion.

I have been misguided
before. She will tell me
if I ever am again.


Darren C. Demaree‘s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in numerous magazines/journals, including Hotel Amerika, Diode, North American Review, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Bombing the Thinker (September 2018), which was published by Backlash Press. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry, and is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and children. 

Catherine Moscatt: “OCD”


1, 2, 3
21, 22
I touch the spine of each notebook as I count
It’s the fourth time tonight
And I should be asleep
My very soul exhausted
From the constant stress
My mind won’t let me rest
I’m tired
Because it’s 3 am and I should be asleep but instead I am rooting through my hamper, ———-desperate to find that one shirt, to make sure it’s still there
My mind plays games with me
I thought we would both outgrow them: we haven’t
Tickles in the back of my mind turn into obsessions, into compulsions
A descent into irrational behavior
And with it comes the darkness
The darkness
Makes it hard to remember
That light exists at all
1, 2, 3
I wish I could count myself into reassurance, into relief
But I don’t think I can count that high


Catherine Moscatt is a 22-year-old counseling and human services major. Besides poetry, she enjoys playing basketball, listening to loud music, and watching terrible horror movies. Her poetry has been published in several magazines, including Sick Lit Magazine, Phree Write Magazine, and Muse–An International Poetry Journal.

John Grey: “Crossing Over into the Land of Rattlesnakes”

Crossing Over into the Land of Rattlesnakes

She looked out over the hot Texas scrub plain,
its cruel footing of knotted roots, jagged rocks.
gopher holes, dry creek beds, maybe a rattle-snake or two.
Even without taking a step, she could feel herself falling.

She’d crossed the border, struggled to feel triumphant.
But the border patrol could sniff her out at any moment.
They were part of the invisible, encroaching terrain.
She’d come for safety but safety wasn’t safe.

What were her last words when she left her home?
Something about a better life. Not sorer feet.
Not burning thirst and brow shining with sweat.
Not a tear in her dress just below the knee.

In her mind stretched the future’s landscape.
It was no different than the one she saw before her.
Except the rattle-snakes were out there in their numbers.
She could hear the rattle. The hiss of venom to come.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East, and Columbia Review with work upcoming in the Roanoke Review, the Hawaii Review, and North Dakota Quarterly.  

Howie Good: Two Poems


The doctor with old food stains on his tie is turning out to be absurdly talkative. “Apparently it’s Mental Health Awareness Day today,” he says. “And ski season is coming. Quite the weather forecast for Budapest. I’ve never been to California and, yes, that’s sad.” He keeps up this giddy stream of consciousness while jamming a giant needle into my chest. When the pain becomes too great, I start to hallucinate a herd of horned beasts – the kind the Dadaists loved – grazing on darkness without the darkness being consumed. I beg the doctor, “Stop, stop, please stop.” He just pushes the needle in deeper. I’m screaming now. A nurse hurries in. “Almost there,” the doctor calmly tells her, referring, I imagine in my distress, to the outskirts of heaven, where angels, some the size of a grain of salt, some the size of a pebble, buzz like dung flies.


Planet Nine

Giant telescopes have searched the skies for Planet Nine, but found only bronze cauldrons filled with ash. I’ve looked for it myself where things accumulate, where people leave things. Every house has a corner like that. I’ve been to the market, too, and the cemetery of babies. I’ve walked down those cobblestone streets. And, in the end, the answer is no. It could have been stolen. It could have been accidentally thrown out. Whatever, it’s gone, and if I were you, I would be nervous now about putting faith in robot bees. It has nothing to do with religion. It’s simply physics, a rainy place with lots of crows and very low ceilings.


Howie Good co-edits the journals Unlost and Unbroken with Dale Wisely.